From the Director’s Desk – June 2017
“And the seasons, they go round and round. And the painted ponies go up and down. We’re captured on a carousel of time. We can’t return, we can only look, behind from where we came. And go round and round and round in the circle game.”
I have been singing Joni Mitchell’s, “The Circle Game,” since I began attending camp in 1995. The song is about a boy’s rite of passage. Beyond the obvious lifecycle events, it seems even more appropriate for us at this time of year. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly our seasons turn. It seems like just yesterday that we were saying farewell, as we closed out summer 2016. Yet, here we are, on the doorstep of another incredible summer. The seasons have truly gone round and round.
People ask me a lot of questions about camp. How many t-shirts should my child bring? What happens if s/he is homesick? What is fun about your color war? How “Jewish” is your camp? But, perhaps the most frequent question I receive – unrelated to one’s own child – is, “You work for camp year-round? What do you do the rest of the year?” As we prepare for the coming summer, I’d like to share a few thoughts about all that we – as a community – accomplished “the rest of the year.”
• September: Feedback, feedback, feedback. Remember those surveys you completed? We read every one of them. Literally hundreds of data points about the 2016 season from campers, staff, and parents are what help shape how we adapt, improve, and make 2017 even better. In addition to the written feedback, we spoke with dozens of families about their experiences. Finally, we joined with camp professionals from around the country for our bi-annual conference of JCCA Overnight Camp Directors.
• October: We began to make sense of all the feedback. What trends stood out? What worked, what didn’t? The ideas started to go up on white boards around our office. And me? I had the honor of interviewing more than 50 Counselor-in-Training (CIT) candidates. Each one had incredible experiences to share, both about time at camp and in other leadership settings.
• November: The heart of our camper recruitment takes place in the fall. After our priority registration, we set out to meet your friends and others in the community who haven’t yet experienced camp. Visits to synagogues, day schools, and JCCs are common, as we look for others who want to join our Capital Camps family. Meanwhile, in the office, we set to work on putting together the shell of our camp program calendar. Events like Maccabiah and SING, out-of-camp trips, and other special events are penciled in, as we begin to conceive of the emotional and educational arc of the summer.
• December: What do you get when you combine Chanukah, Shabbat, New Year’s Eve, and approximately 50 enthusiastic family camp participants? A truly memorable experience. Our New Year’s Family Camp is a highlight of our programming year. This year was particularly special, as we lit Chanukah and Shabbat candles together. Did you miss it? Don’t worry, there’s always next year – mark your calendars for December 29 – January 1!
• January: Although we often see campers and staff around the community, those sightings are no replacement for a reunion in Waynesboro! We braved the intense cold together at camp for our camper reunions. It was a tremendous event. We sang, we danced, ate some grilled cheese, and reunited with old friends – what more could you ask for? Shortly after the reunion concluded, Ari (our Assistant Camp Director) and I whisked off to England, where we hired approximately 30 outstanding individuals to join our summer staff team.
• February: As our camper recruitment continued, so, too, did our staff recruitment. Many of our counselors who had initially applied in the fall locked in their commitments by signing their employment agreements, including the bulk of our summer leadership team. Suddenly, summer 2017, which once felt like a distant goal, was now inching closer to reality.
• March: Something about the weather changing helps us get in the training spirit. Our year-round team attended the annual American Camp Association Tri-State conference, learning valuable lessons about all things camp. We brought these lessons and more back to Waynesboro, where we met with our summer leadership team for an initial training and planning weekend. Did you see our video?
• April: Training, program, camp forms, and more! The to-do lists started growing, as many of our ideas became reality. Meetings with senior staff, strategy sessions, and more characterized our days. Did you know that nearly 1/3 of our staff comes from around the world? Ari spent a week in Israel training our incredible Shlichim (Israel representatives). Meanwhile, I spent much of the month with parents, discussing the ways in which their children can be successful at camp.
• May: We began checking things off of those long to-do lists. We had our initial bunking meeting with all of our Yoetzot (parent liaisons), we stuffed envelopes with luggage tags, followed up on missing forms (finish your forms!), so much to do! Ari met with his next group of staff during the Foundation for Jewish Camp’s annual Cornerstone conference hosted at our facility. We have three outstanding Cornerstone Fellows, who will help infuse Jewish life in innovative and engaging ways into our camp culture.
• June: In the four brief days of this month, so much has already happened! Read our newsletter for more details about our Bubbie-Zadie weekend and New Camper Orientations, both of which just concluded. In the newsletter, you’ll also read about our move to camp, as we prepare to welcome our staff and ultimately our campers.
As you can tell, there is so much to do, and so many people play a role in our collective success. My heartfelt thanks go out to our incredible office team members, who work thoughtfully and diligently throughout the year to put together a tremendous camp experience. The highlights above do not even scratch the surface of the effort they put in.
We will have an opportunity to share more thoughts together as opening day nears. But don’t wait too long, the seasons have gone round and round – summer is about to begin!